Electric vehicles will change the look of cities. Just ask the Scottish town of Dundee

Our planet is changing. Our journalism too. This story is part of a CBC News initiative called Our Changing Planet to show and explain the effects of climate change and what is being done about it.

As world leaders at COP26 in Glasgow work out the final details of a new action plan to tackle climate change, the neighboring Scottish city of Dundee is already offering a glimpse of what a zero emissions future might look like.

For Public Works Director Bob Donnachie, it’s a big blue electric garbage truck – or a garbage truck, as the Scots call them.

“I have to admit, it’s very different from a conventional diesel truck,” said Donnachie, taking CBC News on an unusually quiet ride through town. “You don’t have the rattles and fringes as usual.”

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Dundee bought six electric garbage trucks and then held a contest for schoolchildren to give them names related to electricity.

CBC News toured in “Dr. Watts”, playing a Sherlock Holmes theme. Another is “Leonardo Di Chargio”, named after the actor and environmental activist.

Dundee – a city of 150,000 people about 125 kilometers north-east of Glasgow – is a former industrial city that has successfully become a hub for tech startups and medical research.

This is one of six new electric garbage trucks in Dundee, Scotland. The city is about a quarter of the way from converting its municipal fleet of 180 vehicles to zero-emission vehicles. (Stéphanie Jenzer / CBC)

Today, it’s already about a quarter of the way through converting its municipal fleet of 180 vehicles – from garbage trucks and sweepers, to vans and cars – to zero-emission vehicles.

“We are at the forefront of the e-mobility shift for any city in Europe,” said Fraser Crichton, Dundee City Vehicle Fleet Manager.

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Planning for years to come

Dundee has also invested more than £ 3.8million (C $ 7million) to build electric vehicle charging stations at strategic points in the city.

“The infrastructure has to come into play first before people start buying it then,” Crichton said.

While EV chargers can be big and bulky, many stations in Dundee are actually kept out of sight.

In a parking lot next to the River Tay, loaders are embedded in the concrete at the edge of the sidewalk, flush with the sidewalk; they appear when a driver stops and activates them via a phone application.

Public Works Supervisor Bob Donnachie gave CBC News a tour of Dundee in one of his new electric garbage trucks. His name is Dr Watts, in a nod to the partner of British detective Sherlock Holmes. (Stéphanie Jenzer / CBC)

Crichton said the city has decided if it wants to speed up the electric transition, charging stations need to be where people park – not just at their homes.

“Fifty-one percent of Dundee’s population live in apartment buildings (apartment buildings), so they don’t have aisles,” he said.

The challenge, Crichton said, was to avoid power cables running through sidewalks that people could trip over.

“You have to plan and figure out what you want your city to look like in 20 years, where you have to move vehicles, where you want taxis to be – and so on.”

Dundee – 150,000 inhabitants – claims to be the European leader in the construction of infrastructure for electric vehicles. (Stéphanie Jenzer / CBC)

Signed zero emission declaration

Dundee’s experience in trying to set the stage for the electric vehicle boom reflects the thinking behind the Glasgow Declaration on Zero Emission Cars and Vans, signed at COP26 on Wednesday.

The Conference of the Parties (COP), as it is known, meets annually and is the global decision-making body established in the early 1990s to implement the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and climate agreements. subsequent.

Under the declaration, more than 100 countries, cities, leasing companies and auto manufacturers agreed to work towards a 2040 deadline to completely eliminate the sale of diesel or gasoline vehicles.

The pledge aims to signal consumers, governments, municipalities and the private sector that the electric vehicle revolution has arrived, and that it is high time to make major investments in the infrastructure needed to support it.

Canada has already set its own phase-out deadline five years earlier – in 2035 – but is a signatory to the declaration nonetheless.

“This is how you build critical mass momentum,” Transport Minister Omar Alghabra said in an interview with CBC News at COP26. “This is how you encourage those who are hesitant to make a commitment to join us and join us.”

Call for more investments

Advocates for a low-emission future say the Dundee experience shows why it’s essential for cities and towns to purchase electric vehicles for their fleets: They are paving the way for building critical infrastructure for them. electric vehicles.

“Between 2016 and 2030, we will need around $ 40 trillion in investment around the world, in order to get our transport systems back on track,” said Maruxa Cardama, general secretary of SLOCAT, an NGO. which campaigns for sustainable development, low carbon transport.

At present, she said, renewables only power 4% of the world’s transport.

For that number to really increase, Cardama said, governments will need to shift subsidies received by fossil fuel companies and funnel them into power infrastructure instead.

“If we were to shift all the fossil fuel subsidies that the transport industry is currently experiencing to other ways of moving our vehicle fleets, maybe the economy wouldn’t be so delicate,” she said. .

Dundee held a competition for local schoolchildren to nominate the Scottish city’s new electric garbage trucks. ‘Leonardo Di Chargio’ was one of the winners. (Stéphanie Jenzer / CBC)

The European Union has set a tentative date of 2035 for the phase-out of its gasoline and diesel vehicles – the same timeline as Canada.

The UK, which is hosting COP26, has announced an earlier deadline of 2030.

The UK government estimates that it will need 250,000 charging stations nationwide – 10 times more than the existing number – in order to handle the expected increase in electric vehicles by the end of this decade.

It has already set aside £ 1.3bn (Cdn $ 2.1bn) over the next three years in an attempt to build capacity quickly.

Alghabra said he believed the needs would be similar in Canada.

“In our last budget, our government invested half a billion dollars in infrastructure, research and development,” he said.

Young climate activists protest at the start of the COP26 closing plenary sessions in Glasgow, Scotland on Thursday. (Ian Forsyth / Getty Images)

However, the vision of a future zero-emission vehicle was far from unanimous at COP26.

Major German and Japanese automakers, including Volkswagen and Toyota, have not signed the Glasgow Declaration.

Neither do the United States or China, the biggest auto markets in the world.

Auto industry officials said they fear signing the pledge without certainty that the infrastructure will be ready.

But Fraser Crichton, Dundee’s electric vehicle fleet manager, says such statements let cities like his know they’re on the right track.

“We need this advice, especially from the COP,” he said. “We have to put this into action and it has to be done at the local level.”

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